Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Historical Accuracy

At the moment in Romancelandia, there's a debate going on regarding historical accuracy in Historicals. I'm not sure the average reader is truly ready for the real deal. As far as I can tell, most of the most vociferous critics are belly-achin' about the the way the various classes were portrayed.

Most readers don't want to read about how servant girls were fair game to be raped by the men in the household until they became pregnant at which point they were summarily tossed out. Nor are they likely to be enchanted by the lack of safe food practices in the Regency period. Really.

We can't fail to read historical novels filtered through our own experience in the twentieth century. Recently my cousin was here visiting. In our mid-teens we both visited the family ranch in west Texas. She had grown up in northern Indiana, in a temperate climate with a serious shortage of outhouses and creepy crawlers and snakes. I had grown up in desert Arizona where we had an abundance of all those things.

So when we were discussing our visit to the family ranch, we experienced those visits in vastly different ways. There was noooo running water or electricity at the ranch. Yep. There was an outhouse. And creepy crawlers. And snakes. It was hot. There was no shade and no where to get cool.

For my cousin, it was a visit to the lower rings of hell. She detested it. On the other hand, for me it was just like home. And therein is my point. We both experienced the same things. But we viewed the ranch through the lens of our personal experience prior to the visit.

In the same way, we view the Regency period or the Georgian or Edwardian period through our personal experience. We find the behaviors and mores incomprehensible because we have no possible way to truly experience what life was like then. We have no idea.

Several years ago, PBS had several different series where families voluntarily spent a specific period of weeks totally immersing their lives in another time period. One family lived in a Victorian home in England. Several other families lived as pioneers both in Canada and the American west. What did they discover?

They all found the little things were the most difficult. The lack of feminine products. Shaving with a straight razor. No refrigeration. No grocery stores. Hunting and butchering their food.

All of the people involved were volunteers. None of them had a clue about historical accuracy. When we're reading a book, we really don't have any idea whether it's accurate or not. We can look up stuff on the internet. We can study drawings of clothing or carriages or horses, but unless we have been up close and personal with a horse, we don't really know what it smells like. Unless we've ridden in a carriage, we don't really know how incredibly uncomfortable riding across country in a carriage was. Unless we've had to spend time without the convenience of modern feminine products, we won't really understand the sheer aggravation of using rags for that time of the month--let alone washing the rags and drying them for reuse.

It seems to me that at the very best, a writer can only give the flavor of their historical period. No, I don't advocate allowing stupid mistakes. No, if the Medieval heroine breaks a lamp, she can't buy another one on eBay. But after avoiding those types of mistakes, the best the author can do is try. Research. Read the literature of the time. Go to museums and study the technology and materials from that era. And if possible, try using some of the equipment from the era.

There's a huge difference between looking at a butter churn and actually wielding the beast. Once you've churned butter, you'll never look at butter the same way. Once you've heated an iron on a cast iron stove and ironed a shirt, you'll never look at ironing the same way.

Heh. Once you've gathered acorns and ground them to flour, you'll never look at an acorn the same way either. If you'd like to read about my great acorn hunt, click on the link at the upper right of this page.

anny

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

MORE Summer Reading!

Looking for summer reading with less of a "hotness" factor? Here are some great stories to grab for that entertaining afternoon at the beach! Want to know more? As usual, just click on the book cover!

Gone to the Dogs by Marianne Stephens

As a suddenly jobless and newly jilted fiancée, Katie moves from NYC to Kansas. Her new job is to help the financially struggling Yipsey Dipsey Company market and sell a new drink, Whoopsie, before the company goes bankrupt. However, there are others who would rather see the company sold. Then someone tries to kill her.

She plans to ignore handsome fireman Mike Marino, who's out to win her heart. She wants no ties to Kansas as she isn't going to stay there. But Katie finds it impossible to escape the lust-filled mutual attraction pulling them together for passionate kisses and frenzied lovemaking trysts while the situation at Yipsey Dipsey becomes increasingly complicated.

Dancer's Delight by Anny Cook

Fed up and heartsick, Dancer, virtuoso violinist and assassin, decided to retire despite the angry objections of his boss. On the run for his life, he headed for a hideaway in the mountains. Safe in the warm shelter of his cave, Dancer awoke to the strong perfume of flowers. His investigations revealed a tunnel leading to another cave and a beautiful valley. After a quick survey of his new surroundings he was shocked to find that the tunnel had disappeared, trapping him in Mystic Valley.

A gardener and amateur botanist, Eppie spent her lonely days searching out new plants for the inhabitants of Mystic Valley while she waited for her destined bond-mate to find his way to the valley. Now time is running short. From the instant they forged a mind bond, her body began schalzina, the biological preparation for physical bonding in valley women. Each new occurrence of schalzina is stronger and nudges Eppie another step closer to the final consequence—death—unless Dancer reaches the valley in time for their oath-binding and physical bonding.

Will he agree to an immediate joining with this beautiful stranger?
Vampire Island - Book One of the Hunter series by Sandra Cox

My name is Zoe Tempest. Just let me say, I had no intention of becoming a vampire hunter. My world revolved around the trendiest clothes, the boy of the week, shopping, and texting. My life was as close to perfect as a seventeen year old can get. I had everything. Then my parents were murdered and my world came crashing down.

After their funeral, I went to live with my uncle Julian Kilmer. That’s when everything changed. In a manner more terrifying than anything I could have imagined.

Fabulous reading from three great authors!

anny

Monday, June 28, 2010

Can't afford to eat...

I know it's not new, but wow, food is getting expensive. It doesn't really matter where you eat--home or out--it is getting out of hand. And of course, the cheapest thing is also the least healthy and most fattening.

About three weeks ago, the hunk and I went to Red Lobster and almost fainted when we got a load at the menu. We hadn't been there in quite a while. Whoa! The prices on some of our favorites jumped nearly five dollars. The thing is--they're not the only ones. Almost everywhere it's the same.

And groceries? Milk and eggs are creeping up there out of sight. Even in season vegetables and fruit are way up there. Who can afford to eat? Let alone eat healthy...

The truth is in this crappy economy, the cheapest things to eat are processed foods (pasta dishes, potato dishes, rice dishes, and beans). And if you want to eat, you shop at the Dollar Store or Aldi's and walk out of there with enough to feed the family for the week. Vegetables and Fruits and low-fat meats are no where in sight.

So. What's you're favorite low cost, healthy meal? Any ideas? Pitch 'em out here.

anny

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Have a great weekend!

Sleep late, eat chocolate, read a good book, take a nap!

anny

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Face of the Homeless

Do you know a homeless person? Personally?

I do.

It doesn't take much to be homeless. A lost job. Bills that can't be paid. And suddenly, you're homeless.

I know a young man, a single father, who was laid off and lost his home. Now his extended family is desperately trying to arrange for him to have a place to live. There's no unemployment because he was laid off two weeks before he would be eligible.

And in this day and age, jobs are difficult to find.

So, there. It didn't require any big drama. One lost job was all it took.

He's not a drunk sleeping in a box on the corner. He's a young man with a family. Where does he go? Guess what? He qualifies for NO assistance. What, you say? Surely there's some program out there for him? For his child?

Nope.

How fast could it happen to you? In the snap of a finger. Next time you hear that word "homeless" think about the people you know, your family and friends and consider just how fast you could be one of the homeless, too.

anny

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hot Summer Reading

Sex on a Stick by Penn Halligan

Romany Belle and Macnair Palmer work for the same company, but they've been enemies ever since they lost important funding for a new project. The last thing they want to do is go away together on a business trip. However, what starts out as office warfare soon becomes hot, driving need and out of control passion to touch and taste, and very soon, enemies become lovers.

Romany goes from hating Mac to needing him, but now she has a new problem. How to keep their little affair out of the hands of office gossips? How can she pretend indifference when she really wants to screw the stuffing out of Mac?
Motor City Fae by Cindy Spencer Pape

Detroit artist Meagan Kelly has had a strong sixth sense all her life, but that doesn't mean the gorgeous stranger's crazy story—that she's a half-elf, half human heiress—is true. But Meagan can't deny the evidence of her own eyes—he's Fae. A tall, blond, handsome, pointy-eared elf—and a man she just can't get enough of.

Ric Thornhill's assignment just got a lot more complicated. The more time he spends with Meagan, the harder it is to see her as a political tool to prevent an all-out war between humans and Fae.

Now Meagan's in a race to master her newly released powers in time to prevent the conflict, convince a jealous Queen not to strip Ric of his powers, and find out if she can build a life that straddles two worlds.

Book I of Urban Arcana

Dance for Three by Berengaria Brown
Talitha has separated from her unloving ex and attends line dancing classes to lose weight and acquire social skills. Jared and Nathan, loving partners, are there so Jared can learn to dance before his cousin’s wedding. When the men invite Talitha to join them for a sexy romp, what girl could resist these two hot, hard guys? The sex is scorching and the trio continues to dance not just at class…but also between the sheets.

To buy, just click the covers!

anny

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eagles Trilogy

It gives me great pleasure to announce the release of the third book in the Eagles Trilogy--Eagle's Refuge by Regina Carlysle.

When Callista Hill settles in tiny Morgan’s Creek, she vows to make a better life for herself. She never figured lust and screaming-hot orgasms were part of the equation. One look at the local bar owner and she’s flooded with the need to have him in her bed. He burns her to ash with every erotic touch, bringing her sex-starved body achingly to life.

The instant dark, moody Mac Moreno claps eyes on Callie, he knows he wants her. Her lush curves turn him inside out and have his libido racing from zero to sixty in three seconds flat. Burning up the sheets with this sassy, sweet lady brings him back to life. But when her stalking ex hunts her down, will Callie run?

Not if Mac can help it.



Of course, you won't want to miss the first two in the trilogy--Eagle's Run by Desiree Holt...

Her father was murdered by an unknown killer. Now Leah Morgan, the half-Comanche daughter of the owner of White Eagle Ranch, is faced with his unsolved murder, as well as two illegitimate half brothers who have each been left a share of the ranch. If not for Shane Duffy, the hot-looking, hot-blooded veterinarian, she’d be falling apart completely.

As she fights to retain control of the ranch and considers her heritage, Leah finds comfort in long nights of sweaty sex with Shane. And then there’s Grant Fallon, the geologist who wants to show Leah he can bring her more screaming orgasms than the hunky vet if she’ll just give him a chance.

But someone has an ulterior motive. Is it Shane? Grant? One of her half brothers? Leah might find the answer…if she’s not too busy chasing away the shadows in the arms of her lover.



AND Eagle's Redemption by Cindy Spencer Pape!

Dash Hyde is a former Chicago cop, scarred both inside and out. When he inherits a share in a Texas ranch, the last thing he expects is to meet a woman who can see past the scars to his very soul—even though she’s nearly blind.

Carmen Whitefeather loves taking care of wildlife, but the damaged man she finds on her doorstep with an injured eagle fascinates her even more. The spark between them is instant and overwhelming, and she’s determined to enjoy every second.

As Carmen and Dash explore the passion they find in each other’s arms, they both take the risk of getting burned. When an old enemy of Dash’s targets Carmen, Dash will have to face his deepest fears and walk into the flames to fight for the woman he loves.


For buying info just click on the book covers!

Someday My Prince Will Come

There is a perfect mate out there for everyone. At least that's the basic premise of romance--except for ménages. In those cases, there's more than one perfect person, but they're all perfect for each other.

In the current market, the perfect mate might be a werewolf, a vampire, an animal shifter, or even a gargoyle. And the other half of the equation could be almost anything--even a human. A friend recently wrote a story where one of the characters is part of a tree, not a new concept, but different than the normal run of characters.

So what is the attraction? Why are we so fascinated by the notion of non-humans and multiple partners? Could it be that we live with the less than ideal, deal with the mundane and long to fulfill that long ago little girl dream that our prince indeed will come to rescue us?

While we're waiting, that romance about two handsome men who focus all their talents on pleasing one woman gives us something to daydream about. Or that fabulous dragon shifter will scoop us up and take us away to magical lands.

anny

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

UFOs and Things that go bump in the night...

Have you noticed there haven't been any UFO sightings lately? I wonder what's up with that? A few years ago, they were everywhere. Does that mean they're better at hiding? Or did they just go back to Planet X?

I would be the last person in the world to make fun of people who claim to see UFOs as I had my own sighting. Two of them, in fact.

One was many years ago--maybe thirty-five--when I was driving home from work in the wee hours of the morning. Something up in the sky followed me down a lonely road. Something big with a lot of lights. Now I'm a fairly pragmatic person, but this thing spooked me. I couldn't wait to park in my driveway and run in the house.

I woke my husband--and believe me when I say he was not happy--and we watched it move around overhead for about twenty minutes before it zipped away. What was it? I have no idea. Something very big. That happened in Texas.

About ten years later in upstate New York I was driving my sons and a friend home from our warehouse jobs late in the evening. My sons were in their very late teens. We pulled in the driveway, hopped out of the car and watched an enormous something overhead in the sky.

Was it a space ship? I have no idea. It was elliptical in shape, had many, many lights, and parked overhead. I can tell you what it was not.

It was not a bunch of jokers on ultralight planes flying in formation. And that's what the authorities tried to sell in the papers the next morning. It so happens I've researched ultralight planes and even flown in a two seater. Trust me, they are not capable of flying in place for twenty minutes.

So what were the lights in the sky? I don't know. That's why they're called unidentified flying objects. What's the story? I don't know. Are they from the future? Are they from the other side of the galaxy? Or are they an elaborate hoax mounted by our military?

I don't know. What I know is what I experienced and observed. What about you? Anyone else out there had a spooky experience?

anny

Monday, June 21, 2010

Private griefs, public joys

As some of you know, this past week has been...busy. The week was crammed with house cleaning, doctor's appointments, a long overdue visit with my cousin, a minor outpatient surgery, dinner dates, sharing stories, and saying goodbyes. My cousin began the week by attending a family wedding. The week ended with a death in the family and a new grandchild for a friend.

My cousin and I spent hours talking. When you don't see someone for years, there is indeed a lot to talk about. And our family is a large one, so it seems like we never keep up with all that's going on.

But as we talked, we shared many things, many private griefs that we wouldn't share with anyone else. I had an epiphany. Certain private griefs are only shared face to face. They are not the sort of thing you talk about on the telephone or put in writing. No, we keep them in our heart--possibly for years--and then when we are finally face to face, we unburden our hearts. It occurred to me that my cousin had been waiting a long time to talk.

We are eager to share our joys. When weddings and new babies are in the picture, we're happy to tell everyone around us our good news. We can't wait to shout it from the housetops.

But grief...some how once we move past the initial shock, it's incredibly difficult to open our hearts and share those shadowy fears, those terrible hurts, those incredible regrets and guilts that only appear with the death of a loved one. Grief makes us too vulnerable.

When we do finally break down and talk about it, it will likely be with our closest friend. Unfortunately, in this day and age, that person may be across the country.

For many years, I've failed to understand the importance of face to face visits with my kin. Most of them live two or three days travel from me. I don't travel well. It was so much easier to stay at home and make do with telephone calls or e-mails. It was only as my cousin and I talked I finally realized the true value of making the family visits.

anny

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Brain freeze

Unwind, relax, enjoy the weekend. I'll be back on Monday!

anny


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Woe to my thighs!

Aside from the inconvenience of getting dressed...this would be a great style for millions of women. Just think, no worries about cellulite or fat thighs or big bums. And there would never be a need to shave the legs.

There would be other advantages. You'd never have to share your seat on the subway. For that matter, you wouldn't have to share the sofa, either. And elevators! Probably only two people to an elevator which would really help for those who suffer from claustrophobia.

You could have the entire back seat of the car for your own.

It wouldn't be difficult to keep that insufferable worm at work at arms length. Hey, he probably wouldn't even fit anywhere near your desk. Or... you could just trap him in his own little cubicle and suffocate him.

Imagine the stuff you could hide under that skirt. The hubby would never know you'd been shopping. Heck, for that matter you could hide the kids under there and sneak 'em into the movies for free.

And of course, if you were inclined to be naughty, I'm sure kids aren't the only thing you could hide under there... I wonder how often women took advantage of that?

anny

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Cemetary

Over the last week, I've been working on my room. Working is a polite euphemism for wading through piles of papers. One particular pile is about three inches thick and the best I can tell contains at least five different versions of the same book.

And I do mean different. It would have been nice if I had numbered them or something intelligent, but no, I didn't even change the titles. Of course they were written back before the days of the BIG floppy disks. Fortunately, I printed them out--on a dot-matrix printer. And in spots the print is faded.

In a spiral notebook, I found yet another book beginning with maps, family lists, village names, and other assorted information. It was like stumbling across a treasure map. There was even a primitive outline.

So my question is...where do your old stories go to hideout? And what was your best find years later?

anny

Monday, June 14, 2010

Here a pill, there a pill....

There are few things more exciting than rolling out of bed early in the morning and running out the door without coffee or breakfast because you need to have fasting bloodwork done. I have to do this on a regular basis and I tell you, I just wouldn't know how to live without the excitement.

When combined with an office visit with your doctor, it usually results in no breakfast/lunch until sometime around noon. Hmmm.

The cold I've been battling is actually an allergy attack. Thank you, spring/summer! Combined with the abundant rain and air pollution, this summer will not be fun.

And after reviewing all the stuff going on with the diabetes, I'm now on new meds. I love the paperwork they give you when you start new meds. First there's the very serious exhortation--Read this information sheet carefully before taking medication.

If everyone actually read those info sheets, no one would take any medicine--ever. I started three new meds. Side effects for #1...Dizziness, headache, stomach upset.
#2...burning or irritation inside the nose, coughing, headache, muscle and joint pain, nosebleed or pink color to the mucus, painful menstruation, sinus inflammation, sore throat, upper respiratory tract infection, viral infection vomiting, wheezing. (nasal spray for allergic rhinitis.)
#3...headache, weight gain (this one suggests losing weight to make the medication work better).

Confusing, much? Those were the highlights. The actual sheet are two pages long. I rarely watch television, but when I do, it always amazes me when I listen to pharmaceutical commercials. The cure is frequently far worse than the disease. Faaaaar worse.

I understand the companies are trying to cover their butts so they list every conceivable possibility. I wonder how many people actually listen to the tale end of the commercial when it lists side effects? Do the companies count on people tuning that part out? Or do they count on doctors reassuring their patients? How does that work?

Have you ever taken a medicine that was later taken off the market?

anny

Friday, June 11, 2010

Kama Sutra Illustrated

Contrary to popular belief, writing erotic romance is not just a case of using some naughty words. Nooooo. The writer is required to include various naughty actions. And. Describe. Them.

Now, if you happen to believe that's easy, I challenge you to sit down and write out a scene. Remember you can't just say the lovers did this or that. You must show them doing those things.

Where are their hands? What is her expression? What scents are in the room? Is it light or dark? Are they on a bed? In a tub? Sitting on a chair? In front of a fireplace? Or up against a wall?

There's a reason men prefer pictures. They're direct, unambiguous, and easy to understand. A naked body is a naked body. Women on the other hand enjoy the luxury of imagination sparked by words. The choice of noun or verb can make or break a sensual scene.

A fellow writer and I were brainstorming an alternative for semen. After searching various databases and the Internet, we decided our favorite was sprogspawn. I haven't quite figured out how I'll fit it in a book, but it's too delicious to pass up. I admit that it won't do in my current scene, though. So for now I'll continue my search.

What's you're favorite--pictures or words?

anny

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Weekly Whine

Today I went to the doctor for a follow up appointment for my CT scan. Contrary to any anxiety, it appears I'm not ready to kick the bucket yet. Instead, as the doc said, "We're watching it." And I'll go back for another CT scan in six months. Next stop will be the endocrinologist. What fun.

When I dragged my butt in the door I was greeted with a notice indicating the maintenance department for my apartment complex will be doing their Quarterly Unit Inspections. Sigh. I don't feel like dealing with this right now. I also have company arriving next week. And I really, really planned to write this week.

Oh, yeah. I have a cold. My head hurts, my ear aches, and my nose is running.

Okay. Whine over.

My company is a cousin I haven't seen in...years. I'm four days older than her--a fact she never forgets. She's never visited me here so I'm thrilled to death that she's coming to see me.

The household have all promised to help clean and reorganize. Actually, they'll do a better job than I would, anyway. And it'll look good when the guys show up.

And the health thing? Well, I've been waking up every morning to face beautiful days. Can't really complain, can I? Colds only last ten days. Herbal tea is good. And I sound pathetic enough everyone steers clear. Not bad.

Don't forget to check out the newest wip excerpt. Have a great day.

anny

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spring cold

Working on little sleep, scratchy throat, thumping headache, and post-nasal drip. Goin' back to bed. See y'all tomorrow!

anny

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gray bearded lady

This last weekend was the haircut/hair coloring/chin waxing weekend. I'm now a flaming redhead with no beard. But before my daughter got around to ripping the beard off with hot wax, I took note of the fact that it's mostly gray now. Some is even white. It made me wonder why the hair coloring people don't come up with a flesh colored hair dye for women's beards.

After all, the guys have special products for their beards and mustaches. Of course, I read recently that those products have heavy concentrations of lead...so the hair coloring companies would have to fix that first. I'm not so vain I want to slap lead all over my chin.

But it would be nice not to worry about waxing. My daughter usually takes care of it for me, but one weekend she was away so I thought I would just take care of it myself. There was just one little problem. I don't do well with mirrors.

I can never tell my right from my left in a mirror. Or near from far. So there I was with my applicator stick and hot dripping wax trying to spread it on my... nightgown? ...my ear? ...my nose?

Eventually, the hunk decided to lend a hand. I should just point out his philosophy is the more the better. I did finally end up with a mostly clean chin. But there were patches here and there with springy clots of hair. I gave up and shaved those.

I forget where I was going, but I was more or less presentable when I got there. Maybe. That's the other thing about mirrors. I don't seem to have a pair of specs that allow me to see close up. So for all I know it might have been an illusion.

At least the people I met didn't stare at my chin...

anny

Tonight (Tuesday) from 7-9 PM EST I have the Anny Cook and Friends chat at Love Romances Cafe. I hope you'll join me. If you're an author bring your excerpts. If not, come and plan to enjoy what the others offer! For the link, click HERE.

Also!!! New WIP excerpt up today on Excerpt Page!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bowling

My daughter purchased a minimal Wii set-up. I had heard of the Wii, but really didn't have a very clear idea of exactly what it was. Anyway, this set-up has a bowling game included. A couple evenings a week, we have bowling tournaments, women against the men.

Back when the hunk and I were dating, bowling was one of the few acceptable activities for dating. The others were movies, rollerskating, going out to eat--especially at the Buffalo (ice cream parlor)--and occasionally a visit to the zoo. All very innocent pasttimes. At that time, bowling was also cheap. Even the ice cream parlor was more expensive.

Anyway, the first time we bowled, they were a little surprised at our skill. The hunk and I are both out of shape so they expected us to rack up low scores. Hah.

Now I admit it's tougher for me to do the real deal in a bowling alley because of the weight of the ball, but the Wii is ideal for us old folks. There's nothing except the remote to hold on to. Yet you can still work up a sweat and warm up the muscles.

So we bowled. *Snicker*

After winning the first three games they decided the old guys weren't so bad. Funny how that worked.

anny

Just want to point out I now have a new page with links to my friends blog posts! If I left you out or you want yours added, please e-mail me at annycook67@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Yay, it's the weekend!

Have a great one! Eat chocolate, sleep late, unwind and get ready for next week. See ya then!

anny

Friday, June 4, 2010

I thee wed???

We're officially in the month of June, the traditional month for weddings. Romance and love seem to bring out the most...interesting desires in the new bride and groom. While scrolling through the offerings from Wedinator, I selected a few that were G rated. But if you want to be amazed and amazed and AMAZED...click HERE.

Or you can just enjoy and dream up your own stories to account for my selections. I do challenge you to make it to the last one without smiling.








anny

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A thousand words...



There are some pictures that cry out to have their story told. Serious pictures. Funny pictures. Puzzling pictures. This is one of the pictures I've found over the last couple years. The more I look at it, the more fascinated I am.

So many questions. Why is the cow in the sidecar? Why is the cow wearing a helmet? How did the cow get in the sidecar? Where are they going? Why does the driver have on a suit and tie?

I love this picture. So tell me... what're your best guesses?

anny

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Alien Pitfalls

Over the years I've read quite a few alien stories. Heck, I've even written a couple myself. As I see it, the easiest alien story is one where all the characters and the location are alien. In other words, everything is "not us". In that case, you don't have to decide what the characters know--or don't know (or understand). They'll all be familiar with the same references. Kama Sutra Lovers is this type of story. The book's setting is Elyria and all the characters--at least all the major characters--are natives of Elyria.

In the second type alien story, one of the characters is not native to an alien setting. In this story, the author creates the setting and then observes it through the eyes of the outsider. The Mystic Valley books are stories of this type. Everything is not only unfamiliar to the hero/heroine, but the reader. In many ways, this is the most difficult type alien story to write because the author must convey a strange world, customs, culture while maintaining the personality of the hero/heroine. What will they know/understand and how do they find out about the new world? Some authors may even be tempted to dump information rather than let their character discover that world on their own.

In the third scenario, the alien is on Earth. This presents the problem of determining what the alien knows about Earth and how quickly he/she assimilates. The world is familiar to the reader so the author doesn't have to explain the setting for the reader's sake. However, the author must still be careful when viewing the surroundings through the outsider's eyes.

In the second and third scenarios I also include time travel novels. In Linda Howard's Killing Time, she beautifully addresses this issue when her FBI agent from the future (though well prepared) is continually snagged by idiomatic language differences.

On one hand, it's too simplistic to assume the alien character will understand everything immediately. On the other hand, the story will screech to a halt if the author stops to explain every itty bitty little thing as they go along. I like to assume reasonable intelligence in my aliens and stop occasionally to show them figuring out/asking about a particularly puzzling issue.

The picture at the top of the post is a perfect example of the type of pitfall I think would be interesting, even amusing to have in a story. Perhaps the alien in this case has numerous little horns to hide. What to do? A normal hat wouldn't fit over his head... Or perhaps he's a dragon and must hide his crest. Hmmmm.

What's your favorite alien story?

anny

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sounds of Music

Over the past few weeks, I've read several blogs about the role music plays in the writing experience for some authors. A few authors have listed the songs they were listening to when they were writing particular books. I'm struck by the astonishing variety. I confess I've been totally unfamiliar with about ninety percent of the titles listed. And that's not so unusual given my age. Popular music, after all, is very much an age appropriate genre.

There are some outstanding pieces that cross age, gender and even ethnic barriers. Few people can withstand the mournful strains of Amazing Grace or Taps. Most people are stirred by their national anthems and particularly patriotic songs, especially on national holidays. Certain hymns are frequently played at funerals.

For the most part, though, music preference is as individual as our DNA. I used to think children pretty much listened to the music their parents listened to, but obviously that's wrong. Personally, I prefer mostly instrumental music, even if the titles started out as popular songs. Some disparaging souls call this elevator music. But I find the words distracting and irritating. For me, they get in the way of the music.

My all time favorite piece of music was titled Chariots of Fire--not the short bit most people recognize from the Titles, but the long piece--twenty-five minutes long--that encompasses all the other bits and pieces from the soundtrack. At a particularly stressful time in my life I used to put the children to bed, light a couple candles, turn out the lights and just immerse myself in the music. By the time that piece was over, I was smoothed out and ready to sleep.

More recently I've discovered other pieces of music that operate on my psyche in a similar fashion. I suspect that they would not have the same effect on my friends and family. That's okay.

The wonderful thing about music is its infinite variety. There's something for everyone from the thrilling strains of Bach and Chopin to the driving beat of hip-hop. Music speaks across racial and ethnic barriers. It lifts the heart, comforts the mourning, and rouses the souls of the warriors. It's our most enduring gift from God.

anny